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The Best Vacation Ever: Artist Residency Programs

As an artist, time and space are valuable commodities in continuing your practice. Whether you are craving a retreat or just want access to new a set of equipment, an artist residency may be a valuable move to rejuvenate your practice.

Artist-in-residence programs give visiting artists time and space to focus solely on making work.  Residencies range from small isolated retreats in private homes to larger institutional formats complete with technical materials and professional critiques.

When considering a residency experience, you should be mindful of the personal and professional resources you will require and manage your expectations accordingly. Most programs have a standard application that includes a portfolio review and personal statement, so you’ll want to make preparations well in advance of your desired leave.  A few other things to keep in mind:

* Does the residency program provide material resources (like a wood shop, printing press, or fabrication studio)?

If you use complicated production processes, some residency programs can be great for making objects you would otherwise not be able to on your own dime. The Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Connecticut, the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in Vermont, and the Kohler Arts/Industry Program in Wisconsin all provide specialized equipment for artists working in a variety of media.

* Does the residency program require payment of any kind?

Some residency programs are free of charge, but ask that artists donate work to their collection. The Griffis Art Center in Connecticut, for example, provides lodging and a studio for up to five months but requires the donation of one artwork.  Programs that charge a fee range anywhere from $30 per day to $1,500 per month.

* What professional development opportunities may be possible through the residency program?

Some of the most prestigious programs in the United States invite outside guests (like curators, prominent artists, and collectors) to visit with students. Having the opportunity to share your work with art professionals is a valuable aspect of the residency experience.

The Anderson Ranch program in Colorado accepts 14 artists for a 10-week residency program with leading international critics.  The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine is one of the most competitive residency programs of its kind and offers critical assistance from faculty as well as visiting artists and curators. A dorm, sculpture shop, and darkroom are some of the amenities of the program.  

Interdisciplinary residency programs that host visual artists, writers, filmmakers and other cultural producers can also be excellent ways to be inspired by those working in different media. The MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire is well known for its nurturing environment in this regard. Its noteworthy past participants include Jonathan Franzen, Thornton Wilder, Janet Fish, and Jeffrey Eugenides.

* Does the residency program pay for food and housing?

Many residencies are housed in the context of a museum education department, so it may be possible to be an “artist in residence” in a city in which you are living. Programs like The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Pennsylvania and the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York provide contemporary artists with studio space and educational resources but do not have a room and board component. 

Websites like Washington Art and the Alliance of Artist Communities provide comprehensive lists of residency programs throughout the United States. Be sure to check your region for opportunities near you, or scope out scenic locations around the country for a home away from home.